The descendants of five convicts and five free settlers reunited on the weekend

THE descendants of five convicts and five free settlers, who were the first to be granted land in Bathurst 197 years ago, reunited on the weekend.

Around 80 people gathered as Bathurst Regional Council unveiled a bronze plaque recognising the first 10 settlers at the Bicentennial Park heritage wall at the bottom of William Street.

Those first 10 were convicts – Thomas Kite, Richard Mills, John Neville (Nevill), John Godden (Goding) and John Abbott (Ablett)– and free settlers John Blackman and James Blackman, George Cheshire, William Lee and Thomas Swansbrooke.

The plaque was a copy of a letter written by then Governor Lachlan Macquarie on May 9, 1818 granting each of the 10 men a parcel of land on the northern bank of the Macquarie River.

“This morning I inspected 10 new settlers for Bathurst,” Governor Macquarie wrote in the letter. “I have agreed to grant each 50 acres of land, a servant, a cow, four bushels of wheat, an allotment in the new town, and to receive into the Kings Stores at Bathurst all the wheat they can grow for the first 12 months.”

Andrew Fletcher, the great-great-great- grandson of George Cheshire, said for the settlers to receive a land grant of this size was significant.

“Coming from England the only people to own land was the gentry, so for these people coming from England and having land was hugely significant,” he said.

Mr Fletcher said descendants of the 10 men shared information, photographs and stories for a booklet they plan to write about their ancestors.

“As soon as I met people [other descendants] we’ve got something in common, it’s like meeting your family,” he said.

Settlers and brothers John and James Blackman’s great-great-great-nephew Richard Steele was among those who came to Bathurst for the unveiling.

“The whole idea of getting together was so we could share information,” he said.

“There’s not a whole lot of information out there on the first settlers.”

He said many of the first settlers names are still well known around Bathurst, even though over the years the spelling might have slightly changed.